Teachers in Nigeria, today, join their counterparts in the rest of the world, to mark this year’s World Teachers Day. The Day is set aside by the United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) for a global celebration of quality teachers and quality education.
This year’s event began about five hours earlier in Gisborne, New Zealand – the first place in the world to see the sun. While athletic organizations begin yearly events with flame of fire, a talking stick which Gisbornese call “Tokotoko” to symbolise the passing on of stories, knowledge and learning left New Zealand for New York earlier in the week for the launch of a ‘Year of Action’ for education in the world.
With its design representing the four winds – peoples from the four corners of the earth – the Tokotoko reinforces the message that sharing the values and successes of quality of public education is critically important.
International celebrations are being marked by Education International (EI – the global union federation that represents education professionals worldwide) and other education unions around the world launching the ‘Year of Action’ in New York and Paris today.
Celebration is expected to be visible online where students and parents may have an opportunity to go online and thank teachers who have specially contributed to their acquisition of knowledge and the development of their respective communities.
World Teachers’ Day is held annually on October 5th since 1994, to commemorate teachers’ organizations worldwide, represented by the Nigerian Union of Teachers(NUT) here in the country. Apart from celebrating quality, the commemoration also aims at mobilizing support for teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations of human race will continue to be met by teachers.
According to UNESCO, in its release last Wednesday, World Teachers’ Day represents a significant token of the awareness, understanding and appreciation displayed for the vital contribution that teachers make to education and development.
It is similarly the belief among the officials of Education International that World Teachers’ Day should be internationally recognized and celebrated around the world. The organization also believes that the principles of the UN 1966 and 1997 Recommendations should be considered for implementation in all nations.
Over 100 countries observe World Teachers’ Day and are currently celebrating excellence in the teaching profession in their respective countries. The efforts of Education International and its 401 member organizations across the world have contributed to this widely spread recognition.
That is not to say that the federating teachers’ unions do not have challenges capable of grounding education in their respective countries, for which the Nigerian ASUU may ponder and consider saving the future generations of this country, as cliché of industrial actions or strikes rather leads to notoriety and does not solve difficulties.
Every year, EI launches a public awareness campaign to highlight the contributions of the teaching profession; this year’s edition is ‘Year of Action.’ The organization also use the Day to discuss challenges facing the teaching profession not only globally, but also in the individual countries relative to gravity of the situation. ASUU is expected to take its case to such court of public morality if the university teachers are really interested in the quality of their service for which they appear to advocate.
Certain other days are chosen by some countries to mark various contributions which the teaching profession has made to development. In many countries, such Teachers’ Days are intended to be special days for the appreciation of teachers, and may include celebrations to honour them for their special contributions in a particular field of study, or the entire community. Teachers’ days are distinct from World Teachers’ Day which is officially celebrated across the world.
In past celebrations, the Federal Government of Nigeria rewarded scores of teachers nationwide by awarding various prizes ranging from refrigerators, generating sets, personal computers and air conditioners to cash and new cars. The gesture was to commend them for their respective excellent performances in various areas of the teaching profession.
However, the idea of celebrating Teachers’ Day took ground independently in many countries during the 20th century. In some cases, local educators or important milestones in education are recognized. For example, Argentina commemorates the day on September 11 since 1915 also to mark Domingo Faustino Sarmiento’s death; while India celebrates teachers on September 5 also to mark Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s birthday. They both were sages in education. Some schools in South West Nigeria reward teachers with exemplary deeds on Tai Solarin’s birthday to commemorate the contributions of the sage to quality education in Nigeria. This is the primary reason why countries celebrate this day on different dates, unlike many other International Days.
In South Korea, originally it was started by a group of Red Cross youth team members who visited their sick ex-teachers in hospitals on May 26 each year. In 1965, the date was changed to May 15, being Sejong the Great’s birthday. The national celebration ceremony was stopped between 1973 and 1982 but it resumed thereafter.
On the day, teachers are usually presented with carnations by their students, and both enjoy a shorter school day. Ex-students pay their respects to their former teachers by visiting them and giving them gifts.
In Afghanistan it is celebrated on Oct 15 when Schools have a holiday, but students and teachers gather to celebrate at schools with special traditional food, cookies, music and presents for the teachers.
Albania celebrates on March 7. In 1887, the first secular school which taught lessons in Albanian was opened on this day in the small city of Korçë. All schools had previously functioned under the supervision of the Roman Catholic Church in northern and middle Albania. The Orthodox Church in the south did not allow any Albanian schools prior to this date.
In the People’s Republic of China (PRC), many former students often go back to their old middle schools and high schools to give presents to their old teachers. Some professionals mark it in Schools with their old uniform. Imagine the glamour of members of Nigerian Bar Association who passed out from St. Patrick, Asaba; Government College Ugheli or elsewhere fitting up in their shorts and Cortina, marching out from the hostels this morning to sing hymns at the old assembly grounds in honour of their old teachers. Even if no material reward is given, many potential first class Nigerians may sign in for teaching.
Regrettably, celebrations of teachers in Nigeria seem to centre largely in the cities; of course quite a few cities; and perhaps by a limited class of parents and students. To many parents in the country, teachers are perceived among the underdogs and sometimes wicked. This perception seems to have diminished the morale of average teacher in the country.
As gifts are flying to their counterparts in other countries, not many parents in Nigeria are aware of the Day. Though recognized by the public sector largely federal and state governments, not many of the teachers who deserve commendations are reached given their large number. Most times, deserving ones that are not covered by criteria would exclaim “Pa-sia” when they hear that their colleagues are rewarded. Where the individual parents join in the gesture, most committed teaches may understand that society appreciates their commitment. This may buoy quality in the teaching profession. No doubt, it could boost the psyche of teachers for a better service, leading to delivery of quality education and variety of skills in the country. There will never be problem of unemployment where there is a quantum of skills. In Nigeria of today, young graduates parade certificates rather than skill.
However, recommendation for general recognition of teachers may be unwholesome as the lazy truants among the good ones may never improve.
It is not always true that fallen standard of education in the country is the result of poor quality teachers. Most of the teachers are tested prior to engagement, albeit a few that politics favoured. What has fallen in Nigerian teaching profession is the level of commitment. Most of the teachers who are sincere and committed are overused by the private educationist investors, who pay peanuts to the teachers as salary. In such a situation, especially in Delta State, teachers who take up appointments in the private schools are merely there to wait for employment in the public schools. They keep an eye on the day they may receive call up letters to the public schools. They are never committed working with the private employers as the proverb – to whom much is given much is expected – is often reversed thus – to whom less is given less is expected.
Unfortunately education as a business is becoming a boom across the country. Many investors are largely erecting buildings instead of schools. Some even rent uncompleted buildings and convert them to schools. Such investors largely don’t even have recurrent funds in their budgets and are not able to pay salaries of teachers during holidays when school fees are not paid. Some of them pick up pirated or poorly written books from printers, distribute to the pupils and require the teachers to persuade parents to pay; exposed parents often refuse to pay for such books. Their children or wards suffer in the long run as the teachers who fear deduction of the cost of such books from their salaries often victimize the poor children. There are cases in some private schools around Asaba.
Interestingly, the teaching profession in Nigeria has transformed to enviable level over the years. Many subject teachers especially in the sciences are consultants to various schools and homes; they make handsome income, though limited to the cities. In all, today’s teacher is no longer poor.
It is, however, necessary to effectively regulate the private sector in the area of education. In many states of the federation, most owners of schools aim only to maximize profit as average investors. But cash nexus must not be allowed to be the focus of any educationist, given that the future of every country depends on today’s quality of education. The educationist investor may also be interested to learn that quality remuneration will always produce quality in the delivery of service by the teacher, which in turn, will boost the image of the schools, leading to reasonable increase in profit and in general development.